Buttigieg Warns Of US Cybersecurity Vulnerability Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on May 12, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
By Fran Beyer | Thursday, 13 May 2021 12:56 PM
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Thursday the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, the nation’s largest fuel pipeline, has been a "wakeup call" for U.S. cybersecurity vulnerability.
In interviews on CNBC and CNN, Buttigieg sounded the alarm on the need for stronger protection against such breaches, while advising that it’ll be "a few days for things to be fully back to normal" after the six-day shutdown.
The cyberattack forced Colonial's entire system to go offline on Friday and triggered widespread fuel shortages across the East Coast. The company restarted operations Wednesday.
"This has been a wakeup call on how actors anywhere in the world can impact us right here at home," Buttigieg told CNBC, adding an all-of-government response has "really paid off."
He called the cyberattack a reminder that infrastructure is a national security issue and investments for greater resilience are needed.
"This is not an extra, this is not a luxury, this is not an option," Buttigieg said. "This has to be core to how we secure critical infrastructure."
In remarks to CNN, Buttigieg said "all of the indications that we have seen so far are very encouraging" as the pipeline company goes back online.
"The product is moving, but it moves slowly — about five miles an hour in some cases," Buttigieg said. "And so it will take a few days for things to be fully back to normal."
In the meantime, he urged people to stop gas hoarding and panic-buying.
"We are seeing issues where there might not have been issues otherwise because people rushed to the pump and took more than they needed," Buttigieg said.
"We have all the supply we need as a country. We have a temporary issue in terms of getting it to where it needs to be, and that's why we're taking these other measures with things like trucks to help compensate all the pipelines getting back up to speed," he added.
The Department of Energy has led the federal response to the attack in coordination with the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, with Buttigieg saying that response has included weight limit waivers for tank trucks to help ease shortage concerns, as well as increased flexibility in allowing workers to conduct manual inspections.
Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers have criticized the administration for previously canceling plans to construct the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
Biden had canceled its permit over risks of spills and worries that climate change would worsen by burning the oil sands crude that would have flowed through the pipeline.
"The Colonial Pipeline crisis shows that we need more American energy to fuel our economy, not less," House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California said on Twitter. He said Biden had "left our energy supply more vulnerable to attacks" by blocking the Keystone XL pipeline.
Higher energy prices often have political fallout, complicating reelection campaigns for incumbents outside oil-producing regions. The 1979 fuel shortage crushed Jimmy Carter's presidential reelection efforts and helped usher in the Reagan era.
In another tweet, McCarthy warned Biden "is well on his way to creating another Jimmy Carter economy."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.